I read mostly non-fiction and anything about France. I enjoy edgy current fiction and historical fiction with magical twists.
By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo the Magnificent they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances between the major Italian powers.
However, in the form of Savonarola, an unprepossessing provincial monk, Lorenzo found his nemesis. Filled with Old Testament fury and prophecies of doom, Savonarola's sermons reverberated among a disenfranchised population, who preferred medieval Biblical certainties to the philosophical interrogations and intoxicating surface glitter of the Renaissance. Savonarola's aim was to establish a 'City of God' for his followers, a new kind of democratic state, the likes of which the world had never seen before.The battle which this provoked would be a fight to the death, a series of sensational events - invasions, trials by fire, the 'Bonfire of the Vanities', terrible executions and mysterious deaths - featuring a cast of the most important and charismatic Renaissance figures.
This famous struggle has often been portrayed as a simple clash of wills between a benign ruler and religious fanatic, between secular pluralism and repressive extremism. However, in an exhilaratingly rich and deeply researched story, Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts and political compromises which made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.
Michael Dirda has been hailed as "the best-read person in America" (The Paris Review) and "the best book critic in America" (The New York Observer). In addition to the Pulitzer Prize he was awarded for his reviews in The Washington Post, he picked up an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America for his most recent book, On Conan Doyle.Dirda's latest volume collects fifty of his witty and wide-ranging reflections on literary journalism, book collecting, and the writers he loves. Reaching from the classics to the post-moderns, his allusions dance from Samuel Johnson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and M. F. K. Fisher to Marilynne Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson, and David Foster Wallace. Dirda's topics are equally diverse: literary pets, the lost art of cursive writing, book inscriptions, the pleasures of science fiction conventions, author photographs, novelists in old age, Oberlin College, a year in Marseille, writer's block, and much more, not to overlook a few rants about Washington life and American culture. As admirers of his earlier books will expect, there are annotated lists galore—of perfect book titles, great adventure novels, favorite words, essential books about books, and beloved children's classics, as well as a revealing peek at the titles Michael keeps on his own nightstand.
“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.
Tea shop owner Theodosia Browning knows that something’s brewing in the high society of Charleston—something other than her newest tea… The Indigo Tea Shop, Charleston’s favorite spot of tea, has just come out with its latest flavor: Gunpowder Green. Theodosia Browning cannot wait to hear its praises as it is unveiled at the annual yacht race. But when she hears the crack of an antique gun meant to end the race, a member of Charleston’s elite falls dead. Theodosia has a hunch that his demise was no accident—and will go out of her way to prove it. But if she doesn’t act fast, Theo will find herself in hot water with some boiling-mad Charlestonians—and more than a little gun-chai…Includes a delicious recipe and tea-making tips!
Senhor José is a low-grade clerk in the city's Central Registry, where the living and the dead share the same shelf space. A middle-aged bachelor, he has no interest in anything beyond the certificates of birth, marriage, divorce, and death that are his daily routine. But one day, when he comes across the records of an anonymous young woman, something happens to him. Obsessed, Senhor José sets off to follow the thread that may lead him to the woman-but as he gets closer, he discovers more about her, and about himself, than he would ever have wished.The loneliness of people's lives, the effects of chance, the discovery of love-all coalesce in this extraordinary novel that displays the power and art of José Saramago in brilliant form.
Wars of the Roses: the brand new historical series from Conn Iggulden - internationally best-selling author of the Emperor and Conqueror series.King Henry V - the great Lion of England - is long dead.In 1437, after years of regency, the pious and gentle Henry VI, the Lamb, comes of age and accedes to the English throne. His poor health and frailty of mind render him a weakling king -Henry depends on his closest men, Spymaster Derry Brewer and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, to run his kingdom.Yet there are those, such as the Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York, who believe England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive. With England's territories in France under threat, and rumours of revolt at home, fears grow that Henry and his advisers will see the country slide into ruin. With a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou, those fears become all too real.As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who, or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?'This is energetic, competent stuff; Iggulden knows his material and his audience' Independent 'A thrilling journey, rippingly told . . . Iggulden's most satisfying to date' Telegraph 'Iggulden is in a class of his own when it comes to epic, historical fiction' Daily Mirror 'Iggulden...tells an absolutely cracking story' The TimesConn Iggulden is the author of the best-selling Emperor and Conqueror historical fiction series and also the co-author (with his brother Hal), of 2006's British Book of The Year, The Dangerous Book for Boys.Born in London, Conn Iggulden read English at London University and worked as a teacher for seven years before becoming a full time writer. He is married and lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and children.
From the acclaimed author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and The Lovers comes a tensely drawn, spellbinding literary thriller that gets to the heart of what defines us as human beings—the singular identity we create for ourselves in the world and the myriad alternative identities that lie just below the surface.In Vendela Vida’s taut and mesmerizing novel of ideas, a woman travels to Casablanca, Morocco, on mysterious business. Almost immediately, while checking into her hotel, she is robbed, her passport and all identification stolen. The crime is investigated by the police, but the woman feels there is a strange complicity between the hotel staff and the authorities—she knows she’ll never see her possessions again.Stripped of her identity, she feels both burdened by the crime and liberated by her sudden freedom to be anyone at all. Then, a chance encounter with a film crew provides an intriguing opportunity: A producer sizes her up and asks, would she be willing to be the body-double for a movie star filming in the city? And so begins a strange journey in which she’ll become a stand-in—both on-set and off—for a reclusive celebrity who can no longer circulate freely in society while gradually moving further away from the person she was when she arrived in Morocco.Infused with vibrant, lush detail and enveloped in an intoxicating atmosphere—while barely pausing to catch its breath—The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty is a riveting, entrancing novel that explores freedom, power and the mutability of identity.
America in the 1920s was a country alive with the wild fun of jazz, speakeasies, and a new kind of woman—the flapper.Vera Abramowitz is determined to leave her gritty childhood behind and live a more exciting life, one that her mother never dreamed of. Bobbing her hair and showing her knees, the lipsticked beauty dazzles, doing the Charleston in nightclubs and earning the nickname “Dollface.” As the ultimate flapper, Vera captures the attention of two high rollers, a handsome nightclub owner and a sexy gambler. On their arms, she gains entrée into a world filled with bootleg bourbon, wailing jazz, and money to burn. She thinks her biggest problem is choosing between them until the truth comes out. Her two lovers are really mobsters from rival gangs during Chicago’s infamous Beer Wars, a battle Al Capone refuses to lose. The heady life she’s living is an illusion resting on a bedrock of crime and violence unlike anything the country has ever seen before. When the good times come to an end, Vera becomes entangled in everything from bootlegging to murder. And as men from both gangs fall around her, Vera must put together the pieces of her shattered life, as Chicago hurtles toward one of the most infamous days in its history, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
This extraordinary debut novel by Sophie McManus is a contemporary American tragedy of breathtaking scope: a dramatic story of pharmaceutical trials and Wall Street corruption; of pride and prejudice; of paranoia and office politics; of inheritance, influence, class, and power.Cecilia Somner's fate hangs in the balance. A larger-than-life heiress to a robber baron's fortune, once known as much for her cruel wit as for her tremendous generosity, CeCe is now in opulent decline. Afflicted with a rare disease and touched by mortality for the first time, she finds her gilded, by - gone values colliding with an unforgiving present. Along with her troubled son, George, and his out - sider wife, Iris, CeCe must face the Somners' dark legacy and the corrupting nature of wealth. As the Somner family struggles to find a solution to its troubles, the secrets and lies between CeCe, George, and Iris grow entangled. CeCe's world topples, culminating in a startling turn of events that is as unforgettable as it is life-changing.While no riches can put things right for the unfortunate Somners, when all is lost, they learn what life beyond the long, shimmering shadow cast by the Somner dynasty might become. The Unfortunates, hilarious and heartbreaking by turns, is most of all a meditation on love: as delusional obsession, as transformation, and, ultimately, as a coming to grace.
The extraordinary debut of a classical pianist turned novelist, The Sage of Waterloo is a playful retelling of a key turning point in human history and a slyly profound reflection on our place in the world. William is a white rabbit living at Hougoumont, the historic farm on the site of the Battle of Waterloo. Under the tutelage of his grandmother Old Lavender, William attunes himself to the echoes and ghosts of the battle, and through a series of adventures he comes to recognize how deeply what happened at Waterloo two hundred years before continues to reverberate. Nature, as Old Lavender says, never truly recovers from human cataclysms. Brimming with the wonder and narrative power of Andrea Barrett or Anthony Doerr and full of vivid insights about Napoleon, Wellington, and the battle itself, The Sage of Waterloo is a beguiling tale of fate, human folly, and the wisdom of the natural world."
Meet Theodosia Browning, owner of Charleston's beloved Indigo Tea Shop. Patrons love her blend of delicious tea tastings and southern hospitality. And Theo enjoys the full-bodied flavor of a town steeped in history -- and mystery... — It's tea for two hundred or so at the annual historic homes garden party. And Theodosia, as event caterer, is busy serving steaming teas and blackberry scones while guests sing her praises. But the sweet smell of success turns to suspense when an esteemed guest is found dead -- his hand clutching an empty teacup. All eyes are on Theo... who is now trying desperately to save her reputation and track down the real killer. If only she can make sense of it all--before someone else takes their last sip...
With remarkable panache and discernment, Iris Apfel combines styles, colors, textures, and patterns without regard to period, provenance, or aesthetic conventions. She is a unique style icon.Over ninety sumptuous color plates, photographed by Eric Boman, show off a selection of Apfel's extraordinary outfits on wittily posed mannequins, some sporting her trademark outsized spectacles. The originality of her style is typically revealed in her mixing of Dior haute couture with flea-market finds, Dolce & Gabbana lizard trousers with nineteenth-century ecclesiastical vestments, pink Lanvin worn with ropes of Navajo turquoise. Apfel's eclectic pieces might come from a Parisian couture house, an American thrift shop, or a North African souk, or they may have been made to her own design in a tiny studio.Detailed captions describe every aspect of the outfits, including names and dates of designers, plus full information on fabrics and accessories. A selection of audacious accessories also comes under the spotlight: a giant necklace made of bear claws, a turn-of-the-century Indian horse ornament worn as a necklace, a parrot's-head brooch in colored glass and rhinestones.The book includes an introduction by Harold Koda, director of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an essay by Apfel herself, describing her lifelong love affair with style and illustrated with vintage photographs from her personal collection.
Paris, 1862. A young girl in a threadbare dress and green boots, hungry for experience, meets the mysterious and wealthy artist Edouard Manet. The encounter will change her and the art world forever.At seventeen, Victorine Meurent abandons her old life to become immersed in the Parisian society of dance halls and cafes, meeting writers and artists like Baudelaire and Alfred Stevens. As Manet s model, Victorine explores a world of new possibilities and stirs the artist to push the boundaries of painting in his infamous portrait Olympia, which scandalizes even the most cosmopolitan city.Manet becomes himself because of Victorine. But who does she become, that figure on the divan?Intense, erotic, and beautifully wrought, Paris Red evokes the unconventional love story of a painter and his muse that changed the history of art."
This shattering memoir by a journalist about his father’s attempt to survive the aftermath of Auschwitz in a small industrial town in Sweden won the prestigious August PrizeOn August 2, 1947 a young man gets off a train in a small Swedish town to begin his life anew. Having endured the ghetto of Lodz, the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the slave camps and transports during the final months of Nazi Germany, his final challenge is to survive the survival. In this intelligent and deeply moving book, Göran Rosenberg returns to his own childhood to tell the story of his father: walking at his side, holding his hand, trying to get close to him. It is also the story of the chasm between the world of the child, permeated by the optimism, progress, and collective oblivion of postwar Sweden, and the world of the father, darkened by the long shadows of the past.
Gene Baur, the cofounder and president of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, knows that the key to happiness lies in aligning your beliefs with your actions. In this definitive vegan and animal-friendly lifestyle guide, he and Gene Stone, author of Forks Over Knives, explore the deeply transformative experience of visiting the sanctuary and its profound effects on people’s lives. The book covers the basic tenets of Farm Sanctuary life—such as eating in harmony with your values, connecting with nature wherever you are, and reducing stress—and offers readers simple ways to incorporate these principles into their lives.Living the Farm Sanctuary Life also teaches readers how to cook and eat the Farm Sanctuary way, with 100 extraordinarily delicious recipes selected by some of the organization’s greatest fans—chefs and celebrities such as Chef AJ, Chloe Coscarelli, Emily Deschanel, and Moby. Coupled with heartwarming stories of the animals that Farm Sanctuary has saved over the years, as well as advice and ideas from some of the organization’s biggest supporters, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life is an inspiring, practical book for readers looking to improve their whole lives and the lives of those around them—both two- and four-legged.
Far away from the trendy cafes, designer boutiques, and political protests and crackdowns in Moscow, the real Russia exists. Midnight in Siberia chronicles David Greene's journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 6,000-mile cross-country trip from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. In quadruple-bunked cabins and stopover towns sprinkled across the country s snowy landscape, Greene speaks with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years.These travels offer a glimpse of the new Russia a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity but continues to endure oppression, corruption, a dwindling population, and stark inequality.We follow Greene as he finds opportunity and hardship embodied in his fellow train travelers and in conversations with residents of towns throughout Siberia.We meet Svetlana, an entrepreneur who runs a small hotel in Ishim, fighting through corrupt layers of bureaucracy every day. Greene spends a joyous evening with a group of babushkas who made international headlines as runners-up at the Eurovision singing competition. They sing Beatles covers, alongside their traditional songs, finding that music and companionship can heal wounds from the past. In Novosibirsk, Greene has tea with Alexei, who runs the carpet company his mother began after the Soviet collapse and has mixed feelings about a government in which his family has done quite well. And in Chelyabinsk, a hunt for space debris after a meteorite landing leads Greene to a young man orphaned as a teenager, forced into military service, and now figuring out if any of his dreams are possible.Midnight in Siberia is a lively travel narrative filled with humor, adventure, and insight. It opens a window onto that country s complicated relationship with democracy and offers a rare look into the soul of twenty-first-century Russia."
A raucous, stunningly candid, deliriously smart diary of two years in the life of the incomparable Heidi JulavitsLike many young people, Heidi Julavits kept a diary. Decades later she found her old diaries in a storage bin, and hoped to discover the early evidence of the person (and writer) she’d since become. Instead, "The actual diaries revealed me to possess the mind of a paranoid tax auditor." The entries are daily chronicles of anxieties about grades, looks, boys, and popularity. After reading the confessions of her past self, writes Julavits, "I want to good-naturedly laugh at this person. I want to but I can't. What she wanted then is scarcely different from what I want today." Thus was born a desire to try again, to chronicle her daily life as a forty-something woman, wife, mother, and writer. The dazzling result is The Folded Clock, in which the diary form becomes a meditation on time and self, youth and aging, betrayal and loyalty, friendship and romance, faith and fate, marriage and family, desire and death, gossip and secrets, art and ambition. Concealed beneath the minute obsession with “dailiness” are sharply observed moments of cultural criticism and emotionally driven philosophical queries. In keeping with the spirit of a diary, the tone is confessional, sometimes shockingly so, as the focus shifts from the woman she wants to be to the woman she may have become. Julavits's spirited sense of humor about her foibles and misadventures, combined with her ceaseless intelligence and curiosity, explode the typically confessional diary form. The Folded Clock is as playful as it is brilliant, a tour de force by one of the most gifted prose stylists in American letters.
Although originally published separately, Patrick Modiano’s three novellas form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers—each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists. In this superb English-language translation of Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, Mark Polizzotti captures not only Modiano’s distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose. Shadowed by the dark period of the Nazi Occupation, these novellas reveal Modiano’s fascination with the lost, obscure, or mysterious: a young person’s confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. To read Modiano’s trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates.
At Whitehall Palace in 1632, the ladies at the court of Charles I are beginning to look suspiciously alike. Plump cheeks, dilated pupils, and a heightened sense of pleasure are the first signs that they have been drinking a potent new beauty tonic, Viper Wine, distilled and discreetly dispensed by the physician Lancelot Choice.Famed beauty Venetia Stanley is so extravagantly dazzling she has inspired Ben Jonson to poetry and Van Dyck to painting, provoking adoration and emulation from the masses. But now she is married and her “mid-climacteric” approaches, all that adoration has curdled to scrutiny, and she fears her powers are waning. Her devoted husband, Sir Kenelm Digby – alchemist, explorer, philosopher, courtier, and time-traveller – believes he has the means to cure wounds from a distance, but he so loves his wife that he will not make her a beauty tonic, convinced she has no need of it. From the whispering court at Whitehall, to the charlatan physicians of Eastcheap, here is a marriage in crisis, and a country on the brink of civil war. The novel takes us backstage at a glittering Inigo Jones court masque, inside a dour Puritan community, and into the Countess of Arundel's snail closet. We see a lost Rubens altarpiece and peer into Venetia’s black-wet obsidian scrying mirror. Based on real events, Viper Wine is 1632 rendered in Pop Art prose; a place to find alchemy, David Bowie, recipes for seventeenth-century beauty potions, a Borgesian unfinished library and a submarine that sails beneath the Thames.
A vibrant, intimate, hypnotic portrait of one woman's life, from an important new writerTess Lohan is the kind of woman that we meet and fail to notice every day. A single mother. A nurse. A quiet woman, who nonetheless feels things acutely — a woman with tumultuous emotions and few people to share them with.Academy Street is Mary Costello's luminous portrait of a whole life. It follows Tess from her girlhood in western Ireland through her relocation to America and her life there, concluding with a moving re-encounter with her Irish family after forty years of exile. The novel has a hypnotic pull and a steadily mounting emotional force. It speaks of disappointments but also of great joy. It shows how the signal events of the last half century affect the course of a life lived in New York City.Anne Enright has said that Costello's first collection of stories, The China Factory, "has the feel of work that refused to be abandoned; of stories that were written for the sake of getting something important right ... Her writing has the kind of urgency that the great problems demand" (The Guardian).Academy Street is driven by this same urgency. In sentence after sentence it captures the rhythm and intensity of inner life.